The big draw of injectable fillers for many patients is that the results they provide are instantly visible. While surgery requires recovery and downtime and Botox needs some time to work, injections immediately fill the treated area, making wrinkles less visible or adding immediate volume to the area.
But not every injectable filler works the same way or provides instant results. One example is Sculptra Aesthetic, an injection that provides results over the course of a few months. While the treatment isn’t right for everyone, it can be exactly what some patients are looking for.
Sculptra is made from poly-L lactic acid, an ingredient that is different from the substances found in other fillers. While hyaluronic acid and calcium hydroxylapatite are both made by the body, poly-L lactic acid is a synthetic material. The goal of hyaluronic and in some ways, calcium hydroxylapatite is to fill in areas. But the goal of poly-L lactic acid is to stimulate the production of collagen.
Collagen is a type of protein that your body produces naturally. As you get older, production slows and may stop. Without collagen, your skin doesn’t have a sufficient underlying support structure. It starts to sag, droop and become wrinkly. You lose volume around the cheeks and in the lips.
Although poly-L lactic acid is a synthetic ingredient, it’s a synthetic version of a substance produced by the body. The ingredient is biocompatible, meaning your body will naturally absorb it over time. You won’t need allergy testing before the treatment.
At the moment, Sculptra is the only injectable made from poly-L lactic acid that has FDA approval. Although it wasn’t approved for cosmetic use until 2009, the injection had long been used on patients to treat facial volume loss or wasting due to illness. Before that, poly-L lactic acid was used as the main ingredient in dissolvable stitches.
What It Does
Sculptra is injected a bit deeper than other fillers, down into the dermis. Once there, the substances starts to stimulate and replace any collagen that’s been lost. The collagen then provides support to the skin above it, pushing out deeper lines and wrinkles and adding volume to the face. Most people need at least three treatments, spaced a few weeks apart.
The injection is most commonly used to treat deep lines and wrinkles by the nose and mouth, such as chin wrinkles, nasolabial folds and the marionette lines that develop at the corners of the mouth.
What to Expect After Treatment
Some swelling is common after an injection of Sculptra. Some patients look at the swelling as a preview of coming attractions, as it can give you an idea of what you’ll look like once the results take effect. Putting a cold compress or ice pack on the treated area will help reduce swelling and ease discomfort.
Side effects from the treatment are usually rare and mild. In some cases, Sculptra can cause bumps or lumps to form underneath the skin. To dissipate the bumps, your surgeon will most likely recommend that you massage the area several times a day, for about five minutes, for about five days after your treatment.
You’ll want to be extra careful about sun exposure after your Sculptra injections. The sun’s UV rays can make your skin more sensitive, leading to more redness and swelling. Stay out of the sun for a few days and make sure you wear sunscreen after that.
Deciding If Sculptra Is Right for You
One major benefit of Sculptra includes that once the results do appear, they can last for up to two years. It can be an ideal option for you if you are wary of the results you get from other fillers or don’t want to have to go back for touch-ups every so often.
Since it does take more than one treatment for many patients to get the results they want from Sculptra, the injection may not be for you if you can’t commit to several appointments over the course of three months or if you need quick results.
At the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute, near Washington D.C., Dr. George Bitar and Dr. Robert Centeno can help you weigh the pros and cons of Sculptra or decide if another filler is a better pick. To schedule a consultation, call (703) 206-0506 today.
George Bitar, MD, FACS is an award-winning, board-certified cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon, the Founder and Medical Director of Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Virginia. He specializes in the latest surgical and minimally invasive techniques to scar management and reduction. Dr. Bitar is involved in groundbreaking research and education in plastic surgery and has authored numerous articles, abstracts, and chapters.